updated 4/18/2005 7:25:59 PM ET 2005-04-18T23:25:59

Target Corp. will no longer allow unfettered access to cold medicines that are used to make methamphetamine.

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Target stores nationwide will pull many cold, allergy and cough remedies from their regular shelves and sell them only from pharmacy counters, the Minneapolis-based company announced Monday.

Target is believed to be the first national retailer to take the step.

'Hide the cold pills'
The restrictions apply to all over-the-counter drugs containing pseudoephedrine, including children’s medicines, tablets, liquids and gel-caps, spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter said. Pseudoephedrine is a key ingredient for meth, which can be made in makeshift labs.

The products won’t be sold at all by about 300 Target stores that don’t have pharmacies. Target operates 1,330 stores in 47 states and is the nation’s second largest discount retailer after Wal-Mart.

In Minneapolis, Target shopper LaVonne Best said she understands the move because her neighborhood has had its share of drug-related crimes. “It’s just too sad that the world’s come to this, that they have to hide the cold pills,” Best said.

Brookter said the shift, which will take effect in two to three months, was in response to a growing number of state and local restrictions on the sale of the medications.

Move wins praise from lawmakers
Target’s move won praise from Minnesota lawmakers pushing for tougher measures to fight meth, which can be made using a variety of household chemicals and pseudoephedrine.

“For them to take this lead I would assume that Wal-Marts and all the rest of them will have to follow them very shortly,” said state Sen. Julie Rosen, a Republican who has been pushing strict restrictions on the sale of meth ingredients. “There is a certain amount of community responsibility these retailers should assume.”

Target already had limited purchases of pseudoephedrine-containing drugs to two packages at a time, Brookter said.

Similar policies are in place at rivals Wal-Mart, Walgreen Co., Rite-Aid Corp. and Kmart Corp. Representatives of those companies said they had no immediate plans to take the cold medications off store shelves, except in states were it is required.

A number of states are following the example of Oklahoma, where restrictions on sales of some cold medicines were followed by a dramatic drop in the number of meth lab seizures.

Six states require that only pharmacies sell drugs with pseudoephedrine, and seven others make retailers lock up the products or sell them from staffed counters. Legislatures in 22 states, including Minnesota, are considering similar restrictions.

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